Northampton council uses resolutions to call for gun control, closing of Guantanamo
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING
Northampton City Council President William Dwight Purchase photo reprints »
Eugene Tacy, Ward 7 Purchase photo reprints »
NORTHAMPTON — Not shy about expressing its progressive views on national issues, the Northampton City Council has done so in a big way in recent weeks.
In addition to a resolution adopted on first reading June 27 against the use of drone aircraft for military and surveillance use, the council also signed off on separate measures that demand the government close the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base detention center and adopt regulations of “reasonable and effective” gun control measures.
“Everything we’re supposed to do is defend the constitution,” City Council President William Dwight said during the council’s June 20 meeting. “In fact, almost every issue that we’re talking about resolution-wise ... (is) to that point.”
The Guantanamo Bay resolution, approved by a 7-1 vote in the council’s second, required vote June 27, calls for all of the prisoners housed there to be charged or released. The resolution said that keeping the prison open “represents the continuation of a repudiated foreign policy and stain upon the character of the United States.”
The resolution states that more than 100 of the 166 remaining prisoners have been on a hunger strike for about 100 days to protest the lack of basic human and legal rights, with 86 of those prisoners having been cleared for release since 2010 by an inter-agency task force.
“It is wrong for any country, for any reason, to detain someone for over 11 years and not charge him with any crime,” the resolution says.
It asks President Obama to make good on a pledge to close the prison more than five years ago.
“This is so inhuman, of what is occurring here with the type of treatment that these people are going through,” Ward 6 City Councilor Marianne L. LaBarge said in support of the resolution.
In casting the lone dissenting vote, Ward 7 City Councilor Eugene A. Tacy said he is not comfortable voting for something he knows little about.
“I really do not have a clue as to why it’s still open, why it hasn’t closed,” Tacy said. “I don’t know anything about it. But apparently something is amiss because the president has not closed it.”
Ward 3 City Councilor Owen Freeman-Daniels, who sponsored the resolution, said Tacy should not need special information to vote yes on this measure.
“You just need your common sense and your understanding of natural rights, which Guantanamo Bay is a violation of,” he said.
The council also took a stand in relation of gun control, backing a resolution at the urging of the city’s Youth Commission, which felt compelled to speak up following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last December.
Members of the commission presented a petition to the council in May calling for a resolution, which the council wrote and approved on second reading June 27 by a vote of 7-1. Tacy voted against it.
The measure calls for universal background checks, a ban on assault weapons and a limit on the capacity of ammunition magazines. It asks Obama to propose such measures and Congress to vote on them.
Dwight called the effort of the youth as “real and genuine,” especially given that the high school went into a lockdown shortly after Sandy Hook and there have been concerns at the middle school.
“I feel a moral duty for a number of reasons to advance this ... these are quite reasonable calls,” he said.
More than 250 middle and high school students ages 13 to 18 from throughout the region signed the petition in an initiative launched and carried out by youth.
In speaking with the council, several commission members said they were hoping to have their voices heard on such an important topic.
Though he supports universal background checks, Tacy said he can’t support the other demands.